Should You Rehire a Former Employee?

Lee Polevoi by Lee Polevoi on March 28, 2013

Looking for qualified staff? Perhaps you ought to consider hiring so-called “boomerang” employees, or workers who left your company on good terms and are interested in returning.

There’s a compelling business case to be made for rehiring: It’s cost-effective. One staffing specialist estimates that you can potentially save $15,000 to $20,000 per hire “in lower cost-per-hire, faster productivity, and [higher] retention rate.”

After all, rehires know your business — your values, policies, operations, and so on — in a way that new personnel never could. Also, because rehires generally require less training, they can hit the ground running and become productive much sooner than workers who are unfamiliar with your operations. That translates to a potentially significant savings in training costs and resources.

Another benefit of rehiring former employees is the favorable effect it can have on your current workforce (provided everyone’s on board with the rehire; see bullet points below). A “welcome back” policy demonstrates that you and your business value individuals enough to bring them back into the fold even after they’ve worked elsewhere.

The consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton is such a staunch believer in rehiring that it sponsors a Comeback Kids program, through which it actively reaches out to past employees and revisits employee opportunities. Small businesses can create rehiring programs by setting up employee alumni groups through social media networks. LinkedIn, for example, enables members to track former employees’ careers and activities.

Factors to Consider When Rehiring

Potential rehires should undergo a thorough assessment, including an evaluation of their job performance while at your company and their track record since leaving. Of course, you’ll also want to review the circumstances of their departure: If their exit was amicable, fine. If they left your business under less-than-ideal conditions, you may not want to rehire them. (Anyone who was fired for incompetence or unacceptable behavior is not a good rehire candidate.)

Other factors to consider before rehiring someone:

  • Has your business changed significantly since the employee left? His or her re-entry may require more time and expense than anticipated.
  • Did the potential rehire have problems with his or her manager? If that’s the reason for the original departure and the manager is still in place, issues are likely to recur. (But perhaps this person could be of value elsewhere in the business.)
  • Will the other employees resent this individual’s rehire? This may happen if workers feel that someone on staff was overlooked for the open position.

Once you’ve done due diligence and determined that a rehire is your top choice, don’t take the transition period for granted. Be sure to brief the rehire on the current state of your business and provide all of the necessary resources that he or she needs to succeed.

For example, pair a rehire with a veteran employee to reintroduce the returning staffer to the work environment. Keep an eye on his or her progress by asking for regular updates. Make sure the boomerang employee is happy about being back on the job.

Lee Polevoi

Lee Polevoi is an award-winning business writer specializing in the challenges and opportunities facing small business. He is former Senior Writer at Vistage International, a global membership organization of CEOs.